A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman

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A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman

Post by Graham on Sat Oct 13, 2018 11:33 am

This one is a bit close to home. A grumpy old man prematurely put out to grass. How dare they caricature us like this. I’ve a good mind to write in and complain, if I had half the energy of the man called Ove.

Ove’s life encompasses a few simple routines, inspecting the neighbourhood, clearing snow from his path, caring for his beloved Saab, visiting his wife’s grave. But now he has a project, installing a hook in the ceiling that will take a man’s weight, the weight of a man called Ove.

The first crack in his armour appears when the young daughters of his new neighbours, whom he has just castigated for infraction of the community driving guidelines, knock on his door to deliver some saffron rice and chicken.

I wonder sometimes how novels become bestsellers as this has. When I started reading I thought it had none of the complexity of Flight Behaviour or Skippy Dies and the characters seemed one-dimensional. The language was bare and figurative speech sparse, sometimes inappropriate, possibly poorly translated and initially uninspiring. I wasn’t emotionally involved in the story until Ove’s meeting with his future wife Sonja. Then the power of the stripped-down story telling became evident.

Although in retrospect the story arc is obvious, Backman gradually winches up the emotional intensity. This tragedy of a man out of synch with the times, and bereft at the loss of his wife, is easily the most tear-inducing book I have read. At the same time, I became grumpier each day I read it, channelling my inner Ove.

Backman is an unusual talent. I will certainly read more of him once I’ve stocked up on tissues.

Graham
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